By Mark Huelsing
So far my season has consisted of trying to find time for quick hunts amongst a crazy schedule. I’ve snuck out for a few morning hunts and spent several evenings hunting for a few hours after work. Planning and packing the essential gear for these short hunts is easy. However, when November rolls around and I begin spending long, dark-to-dark days in the stand, the the amount of things that I need to pack increases quite a bit.
Historically, my packing for such long hunts has focused mainly on proper clothing and essential hunting gear (weapon, optics, calls, etc). I used to give little thought about what food I would pack, which as I have come to realize, is a HUGE mistake. I’ve come to learn – the hard way – that smart nutrition choices can actually help me hunt more effectively.
A hungry stomach can drive you out of the stand, as can an upset one. Grabbing only what is convenient often means loading up on processed sugar and junk calories, which will give you some initial energy, but also lead to a crash. I’ve noticed that my level of comfort, alertness, focus, and even warmth, are influenced by what I eat over the course of a long day’s hunt.
Now, I don’t have a bunch of time to spend preparing food during the peak of my hunting season, and I’m sure that you don’t either. Things like jerky and trail mix are convenient staples, and are actually a fairly good choice for quality calories. But other common convenience items that hunter’s tend to grab aren’t such smart choices. Energy drinks, donuts, pastries, snack cakes, heavy/greasy breakfast items, energy bars, etc. – these items don’t provide long-lasting, quality calories.
Here are a few of my favorite hunting season staples that are easy to prepare, convenient to pack, quiet to eat on the stand, and provide some quality, balanced calories…
Quick and Easy Breakfast – Overnight Steel Cut Oats
I’m not a huge fan of traditional oatmeal, but I do enjoy steel cut oats. However, there is one huge problem with steel cut oats – they take forever to prepare!
Well, thanks to my wife and her obsession with Pinterest (please tell me that I am not the only guy whose wife/girlfriend is obsessed with that site!) I discovered a quick, no-fuss method to prepare steel cut oats.
The basic idea is to add even amounts of steel cut oats and almond milk into a container, mix in some spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract), and then throw it in the fridge to sit overnight. In the morning you can top this concoction with some extra goodies (I do sliced almonds, slices of banana, and some dark chocolate chips) and then either eat it cold or heat it up in the microwave.
Here is one example RECIPE to get you started.
This breakfast will hang with you and takes all of 2 or 3 minutes to prepare.
Lunch in the Woods – Probars
I’m not a fan of most energy, protein, meal-replacement, or nutrition bars. Most of them taste bad and sit in my stomach like a rock. One of my friends told me about Pro Bars, and though I was skeptical, I gave in and tried one. I was surprised that I didn’t have to choke it down; it actually tasted good! I was even more surprised to find out that they are completely natural with no added sugars, fillers, preservatives, etc. (Pro Bar also touts the fact that their bars are vegan, which always makes me chuckle a bit as I eat one while attempting to kill something for a real dinner.)
There is a flavor of Pro Bar for pretty much everybody, and though I haven’t tried them all, I will tell you that ‘Superfood Slam’ and ‘Nutty Banana Boom’ are awesome!
You can check out the entire line at TheProBar.com
Afternoon Energy – Wilderness Athlete, Energy & Focus
I know that I’ve already told you that I wasn’t a fan of energy drinks, and I’m not, but Wilderness Athlete’s Energy & Focus is different from your average quick-stop, liquefied sugar bomb in a can.
Energy & Focus won’t give you the jitters, and it won’t lead you to crash and burn. What it will do is give you a good boost of sustained energy, which I have found helpful to fight off the afternoon naps in the stand. Add in the fact that Energy & Focus also gives you a good dose of vitamins and it is hard to pass this stuff up.
Learn more at WildernessAthlete.com
Dinner on the Stand – Peanut Butter, Honey, and Bacon Bagels
Yes, you read that right – peanut butter, honey, and bacon on a bagel. Sounds crazy, tastes delicious, and will fill you up!
I don’t know where this idea originated, but it has sort of become a cult staple of Western hunters that are out in the wilderness for days at a time. I caught my first mention of the idea in Cameron Hanes’ book, Backcountry Bowhunting.
I prepare a few of these in advance by toasting my bagel and letting it cool. I then add a fair dose of peanut butter, a drizzle of honey, and some cooked bacon. Throw all of that together sandwich style, put it in a zip-loc, throw it in your pack, and hit the woods.
All I am saying is this, “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!”
What are your hunting season food staples?
– Mark Huelsing is a regular guy with an irregular passion for bowhunting and the outdoors. If he is not bowhunting, then he is planning towards it, training for it, and writing about it at SoleAdventure.com